Troubador A Visit to Gansu Province for the Chinese New Year

Released: 18/02/2020

eISBN: 9781838598082

Format: eBook

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A Visit to Gansu Province for the Chinese New Year


In 2003 about sixty percent of China’s population still lived in rural areas. And of that population, about forty million still lived in the man-made cave dwellings known as yaodong. Whereas life in the cities had changed radically, in the country change was slower and many old customs still existed – as the author of this book, Helen Wallimann, was to experience during her stay with a Chinese family in their farmhouse on the loess plateau of Gansu Province, northern China.

There, during the Chinese New Year holiday, she witnessed everyday family life, the busy market, weddings and preparations for weddings, and also various traditions connected with the New Year celebrations or the commemoration of the dead. She slept on a kang, she used all kinds of toilets but never flush lavatories, she washed herself in an enamel basin and cleaned her teeth out in the lane. She visited people in farmhouses and yaodongs, sat with them on the heated kang, ate with them; she watched women doing the cooking, spinning, sewing shoes, doing embroidery; she chatted with old ladies about foot-binding and their work in the fields, with young women about courtship and marriage. She talked with school teachers about schools, a long-distance truck-driver about his work, the local doctor about euros and Swiss francs. She met a government surveyor, a woman who ran a bus line, a man who sold clothes in Moscow…

This does not claim to be an academic anthropological study, it is simply the diary of an open-minded woman who noted and photographed what she saw and heard. Now that so much has changed and that many traditions have been lost or have lost their meaning, this account may serve as a partial record of a way of life that is rapidly disappearing.


Wenn blue und blau sich nicht entsprechen
Der Schweizer Autor Erhard von Bueren liest aus seinem Roman Ein langer blauer Montag. Anhand von Passagen aus A Long Blue Monday veranschaulicht Helen Wallimann einige Uebersetzungsprobleme.

When blau and blue are not quite the same
The Swiss author Erhard von Bueren reads from his novel Ein langer blauer Montag. Helen Wallimann illustrates translation problems by comparing the passages with her rendering in A Long Blue Monday.

BATH GERMAN SOCIETY, Thursday, 17 Oktober 2019, 7.30pm, Bath Royal Literary & Scientific Institution, 16 Queen Square, Bath.
CHELTENHAM GERMAN CLUB, Friday, 18 October 2019, 7pm, Parmoor House, 13 Lypiatt Lane, Cheltenham.
BRISTOL ANGLO-GERMAN SOCIETY, Monday, 21 October, 7pm, Bristol University Modern Languages Department, 21 Woodland Road, Bristol.

The 2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage aims to encourage more people to discover and engage with Europe's cultural heritage. In an article in the Swiss cultural magazine SoRock, Felix Epper reports on how Helen Wallimann has contributed by translating Erhard von Bueren's Swiss novels and thus making them available to the English-speaking world.

To read the article (in German) see: (pages 54-55).

Interview with the translator, Helen Wallimann, on

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Erhard  von Büren

Erhard von Bueren was born near Solothurn, Switzerland. After a PhD in Psychology and German philology from Zurich University and study stays in France he worked as a teacher in advanced teacher training.

Besides various articles in anthologies and journals, he has had three novels published in Switzerland: Abdankung. Ein Bericht (Zytglogge Verlag, Bern 1989), Wespenzeit (Rotpunktverlag, Zurich 2000), Ein langer blauer Montag (verlag die Brotsuppe. Biel/Bienne 2013).

After Epitaph for a Working Man and Wasp Days, A Long Blue Monday is the third of his books to be published in English.

Erhard von Bueren has won various literary awards including the Canton of Solothurn Prize for Literature in 2007. He lives in Solothurn.


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